Sunday, April 29, 2012

4/29/2012 Exploring Music City



We headed downtown this morning a little later than what we planned but Bob is moving a little slower than usual. But he’s moving!

We arrived downtown and pulled into a private parking lot and were dismayed to find that parking was going to cost us $10.00 for two hours. We planned on being here all day. Just as we were deciding to leave this lot we heard, “Hey, wait a minute.” There was a tall man hurrying across the lot towards us. Since I wasn’t in the truck yet I went to find out what he wanted and he told us not to park in the lot but to go one block up and we would find street parking and on Sunday’s the parking meters don’t need to be fed. Well, that was good news! I thanked him for the info and he followed up with, “Well, I just saved you a lot of money and I’m homeless and need money for food, can you help a brother out?” I walked over to the truck and told Bob what he said and told him that I had no cash on me and asked if he had any. He did, some 20’s, and a dollar bill. Since we had already decided to leave the lot anyway I took the dollar and walked back to the man. I handed him the dollar and said I was sorry that I didn’t have anymore but all we had were 20’s and I wasn’t going to give him a twenty. He came back with, “Hey, no problem, I’ve got change for a twenty.” I just looked at him and then walked away. Wouldn’t you know, we went the block up and found a parking spot on the street which happened to be next to an identical lot to the one we just left and there he was, working that lot. I saw him direct three people away to the street and each one reached into their pockets. What a gig this guy has going.

Parked, and truck secure, we walked very slowly, two blocks to buy tickets for the Gray Lines Trolley Hop. I asked for a military discount and was pleasantly surprised that they give one. We had an hours wait for our time slot so we decided to go into the Wildhorse Saloon to wait. Bob suggested it would be better for his back to sit rather than walk the streets and explore while waiting. Ah, yeah right. So off to the saloon we went.


This must be some party bar as its actually three stories. In just a few weeks Three Dog Night will be playing here and we both wish we were going to be in town for that. We had a nice chat with the bartender who is a transplant from Reno. What a personable young man he was. We thoroughly enjoyed spending our time that we needed to pass with him. He kept an eye on the time for us and let us know when it was time so that we didn’t miss our trolley boarding timeslot.

On the way back to the trolley stop we took in the architecture of the old buildings.


There are many beautiful old buildings in Nashville and some pretty amazing new ones.


There was one that caught my eye right away and my first thought was Batman. Do you see it?


We did find out later in the day that a lot of people do see the resemblance and the building is now referred to as the Batman Building.

While waiting for our trolley to arrive at the stop we met two couples from western Pennsylvania who were just thoroughly intrigued with our lifestyle as fulltime RV’ers. They had lots of questions for us.

Finally settled on the trolley we were ready for our hop to start. We decided to get off at the very first stop. We’ll get on this trolley again or another that comes by after we’re done here.

First stop? The Ryman Auditorium.


The place where country music as we know it started. It was also the place for the birth of Blue Grass.


We had heard so much about this building that we couldn’t wait to get inside and see it. Military members are remembered here also and given a discount. It just pays to ask.


This building was built in the 1880’s as the Union Gospel Tabernacle by Nashville businessman Thomas Ryman. He had heard Samuel Porter Jones preach and built this auditorium for this revivalist. After Ryman’s death in 1904 the Tabernacle was renamed in his honor. Today the stained glass windows are still in place.


The auditorium which seats 2,362 is said to be one of the best, if not the best, acoustically superior venues in the entire country.


The Grand Ole Opry was broadcasted from this building from 1943 to 1974 when the new building was constructed. When the Opry moved this building was left vacant for nearly twenty years. Finally, in 1992 Emmylou Harris performed some shows in this auditorium and it was decided that this former church was to be renovated.

The original floors are still intact and the same pews are still in place. This is why the Ryman is called the Mother Church of Country Music.

We just loved the old wooden floors in the auditorium and were quite taken with metal work on the stairway to 2nd floor.





Oh, if only these walls could talk!

Visitors to the Ryman can have their picture taken center stage if they choose to.


There’s also a recording studio and you can cut a CD if you’d like to. We, uh, passed on that one.

Having toured the hallways of this magnificent building, read all the information posted and marveled at the original woodwork, it was time to continue on with our trolley hop.

We joined quite a few outside on the corner and we were concerned about their being space available when the next trolley came. After all this was just the first stop and we weren’t sure how many were going to get off here. As it turned out, we couldn’t get on so we joined Bob and Susan of North Carolina for a drink at a bar down the street.


Though not RV’ers they do travel quite a bit and we had a good time talking about places we had both been.

As I said, we had walked down the street and I snapped this picture in on the corner.


This is Legends Corner. This whole street is filled with honky-tonks and at anytime of the day you’ll hear singers and bands playing trying to be discovered. The ones who made it have come back time and again to play where they got their start and to check out the new talent I’m sure.

We went to Tootsie’s on a recommendation of our friend Zabby. Now Zabby and I email back and forth quite often and it seems that whenever we get to a new town Zabby has a bar for us to check out. No museums, no historical sites, no zoos or architectural wonders, just bars. Zabby, why is that?

So into Tootsie’s we went.


Right inside the front door to the right was a stage with a band playing and a young lady singing. It must have a been a new song for her because she was holding up an electronic device and reading the words as she sang. Her own personal karaoke machine.

There was no seating to be had downstairs.


We ventured upstairs on to find another band in the back of the house.


I did take notice that no one seemed to be paying any attention to either band. Bob and Susan joined us upstairs but having a conversation was difficult at best. I didn’t really listen to the band at the back of the house but I think they lost their way. Their decibel level was more likened to heavy metal band rather than the country music this town is known for. I tried to listen to the words he was singing but I couldn’t make anything out. It certainly wasn’t a tune lamenting about how his wife left and took the dog and how much he missed that dog.

After one drink the four of decided that we had better get back to the corner so that we could get on the next trolley. Especially if there was another crowd. Since I could walk the fastest I went ahead of the other to secure out spot only to find out that there wasn’t anyone there before us. Shortly the trolley came and there were just four seats available.

Next stop was Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Otis our trolley driver stopped so that we could take a picture of the State Capitol.


Take notice of the cement columns in the foreground. I forget how many columns there are but atop each one are bells that total 95, one for each of Tennessee’s counties. (I can’t even imagine, Delaware is so small we only have three counties!) On the quarter hour snippets of songs such as the Tennessee Waltz play. We got to hear them and they were just beautiful.

Across the street was a Farmer’s Market, which was stop number three, but no one wanted to go there. This park also boasts a granite wall which is a timeline. The timeline started a million years ago and went up to the late 1990’s. When Tennessee became a state important times were described in short phrases. I think I would have liked to walk the timeline and read it all but time was of the essence and I knew Bob wouldn’t have been up for it.

Do you watch American Pickers on TV? The two fellows who drive around in a van and buy things from people who have vast collections of nearly anything you imagine? Well, their store is here. This was a place that we did want to get off the trolley for but since we couldn’t get on that first trolley after the Ryman Auditorium we lost nearly an hour. There’s a stop later that we just didn’t want to miss so we reluctantly passed on this one.

Did you ever hear Nashville referred to as the Athens of the South? I have to tell you, we hadn’t. It is understandable though after we pulled up at the fifth stop.

The Parthenon, a full scale replica.



This was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Originally built of plaster, wood, and brick, the Parthenon was not intended to be permanent, but the cost of demolishing it combined with its popularity with residents and visitors to the area resulted in it being left standing.

In the next 20 years Mother Nature took her toll on the building and left it pretty shabby. It was then rebuilt in the exact same place only this time in concrete.

Today this building is an art museum and it was closed because it’s Sunday. We would have gone inside if possible and we’re sorry we missed this. Friends of ours, Theresa and Bill highly recommended it. (Take a lesson here Zabby) <grin>

Otis, our trolley driver was kind enough to stop to let us at least get pictures.

From there it was a drive down Music Row where careers and lots of money are made. Recording studio after recording studio, record labels we recognized and some that were new to us.

Otis, our drive came here 22 years ago to make it big in the country music scene. He does record his guitar on other artists records and has made a name for himself as a guitarist. He’s still waiting for fame and fortune to come his way and he hasn’t given up.

There are mega medical plazas in Nashville. One that was pointed out to us was the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center. Do you know who Sarah Cannon was? None other than Cousin Minnie Pearl.

The number six on the trolley hop was Frist University. We had no interest here and just stayed put.

We passed this very tall condo building and it was pointed out the top floor and the three sets of sliding glass doors were pointed out to us. In fact, Otis said it even looked like the resident was in since the drapes were open.


We were looking at where Taylor Swift lives. Otis said that he saw her and Kelly Pickler walking in the next block over just a week ago. He also told us that when the flood came in 2010 Taylor Swift donated 1.3 million dollars to the relief fund and to help re-build what was destroyed.

The last stop was on the one we had been looking forward to most of all.



We went inside to get our tickets and yes, the military discount applied again.

The Lobby.



The tour starts on the 3rd floor and you work your way down.

When the elevator doors open the first thing we noticed was the wall of advertising posters. Every country music star you could imagine.


This is called the Hatch Exhibition. Hatch Show Prints, established in 1879 has advertised Grand Ole Opry stars, vaudeville shows, sporting events, circuses among other events. This company is still operating today.


Lots of clothing and boots were on display throughout the museum as part of the Nudie Cohn Exhibit.

Roy Rogers wore these boots when he performed on stage. Fancy boots, aren’t they?


By the way, did you know that Roy Rogers is the only person to have ever been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame? Once as part of the Sons of Pioneers and again as a solo act.

There were two automobiles on display, one with gold accents belonging to Elvis Presley and the other, much more elaborate, than even gold, belonging to Webb Pierce.




Webb Pierce paid $20,000 to have this ‘62 Bonneville customized by Nude Cohn, tailor to the stars. The seats are all hand tooled and over one thousand silver dollars are inlaid into the leather.



It doesn’t show in the picture but the gas and brake pedals are horseshoes.

Now let’s not forget Elvis. For their first anniversary Priscilla commissioned European professionals to refinish this 1928 Kimball grand piano and in 24 karat gold leaf. Sheesh, I only got Bob a card!


Rhinestones ruled back in the day when Porter Wagoner defined country music fashion.


The designer incorporated wagon wheels for Wagoner who was known as the Wagon Master.

Buck Owens was quite stylish also in the days of rhinestones.


We went down to the second floor and discovered the Wall of Gold and Platinum records. There’s this wall and then on the other side there is a two story wall. Picture follows this one.


I believe there are 848 albums altogether.


On the second floor there was a display of the Country Hall of Fame plaques.

The room is round and the saying is printed two times so that there is no beginning and no end.



Our tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame brought a great ending to a wonderful day exploring the Music City. Do we wish we had more time? That we hadn't lost a day with Bob’s back? Of course, but that’s life and we’ll forever cherish all the sites we did see.

Sites we saw as we slowly walked back to our truck.


We would have loved to do this but it was a little pricey compared to the carriage rides we took in Charleston and Savannah.


Circa 1879.


What a great day!

Told ya it was long!


Alan and Marilyn McMillan said...

Great tour -- one we definitely need to take! I'm thankful the panhandler didn't try to rob you! Be safe in your travels.

LaVon Baker said...

I can't believe you didn't cut a CD! You do a beautiful rendition of "Happy Birthday!"

Zabby & Snookie. Great title for an adventure movie. ;-)

Bill and Treasa said...

Actually, the saying is - Will the Circle be Unbroken.